Historical Perspectives on Climate Change

Oxford University Press
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This intriguing volume provides a thorough examination of the historical roots of global climate change as a field of inquiry, from the Enlightenment to the late twentieth century. Based on primary and archival sources, the book is filled with interesting perspectives on what people have understood, experienced, and feared about the climate and its changes in the past. Chapters explore climate and culture in Enlightenment thought; climate debates in early America; the development of international networks of observation; the scientific transformation of climate discourse; and early contributions to understanding terrestrial temperature changes, infrared radiation, and the carbon dioxide theory of climate. But perhaps most important, this book shows what a study of the past has to offer the interdisciplinary investigation of current environmental problems.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Oxford University Press
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Published on
Sep 10, 1998
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Pages
208
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ISBN
9780198024064
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Language
English
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Genres
Science / Earth Sciences / General
Science / Earth Sciences / Meteorology & Climatology
Science / Environmental Science
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Developed to inform the 3rd National Climate Assessment, and a landmark study in terms of its breadth and depth of coverage and conducted under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Energy, Climate Change and Energy Supply and Use examines the known effects and relationships of climate change variables on energy production and supply, including oil, gas, thermal electricity, and renewable energy.

Knowledge of today's available energy forms is constantly surfacing and changing in the face of climate change, making it increasingly important to enhance communication about various energy supplies. This report on energy supply and use summarizes current knowledge, especially emerging findings, about implications of climate change for energy production and supply (oil and gas, thermal electricity, renewable energy, integrated perspectives, and indirect impacts on energy systems). A comprehensive resource for community planners and researchers, it discusses future risk-management strategies surrounding water treatment, heating or cooling, and mitigation that the country can utilize in its energy consumption. The authors analyze findings from their own research and practice to arrive at conclusions about vulnerabilities, risks, and impact concerns for different aspects of U.S. energy supply and use. Global and national policy contexts are informed by these efforts to create energy options and choices.

Rich in science and case studies, Climate Change and Energy Supply and Use offers decision makers and stakeholders a substantial basis from which to make informed choices that will affect energy risk-management in the decades to come.

Adaptation is the poor cousin of the climate change challenge - the glamour of international debate is around global mitigation agreements, while the bottom-up activities of adaptation, carried out in community halls and local government offices, are often overlooked. Yet, as international forums fail to deliver reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, the world is realising that effective adaptation will be essential across all sectors to deal with the unavoidable impacts of climate change. The need to understand how to adapt effectively, and to develop appropriate adaptation options and actions, is becoming increasingly urgent.

This book reports the current state of knowledge on climate change adaptation, and seeks to expose and debate key issues in adaptation research and practice. It is framed around a number of critical areas of adaptation theory and practice, including:

Advances in adaptation thinking, Enabling frameworks and policy for adaptation, Engaging and communicating with practitioners, Key challenges in adaptation and development, Management of natural systems and agriculture under climate change, Ensuring water security under a changing climate, Urban infrastructure and livelihoods, and The nexus between extremes, disaster management and adaptation.

It includes contributions from many of the leading thinkers and practitioners in adaptation today. The book is based on key contributions from the First International Conference on Climate Change Adaptation ‘Climate Adaptation Futures’, held on the Gold Coast, Australia, in June 2010. That three-day meeting of over 1000 researchers and practitioners in adaptation from 50 countries was the first of its kind.

Readership: The book is essential reading for a wide range of individuals involved in climate change adaptation, including:

Researchers, Communication specialists, Decision-makers and policy makers (e.g. government staff, local council staff), On-ground adaptation practitioners (e.g. aid agencies, government workers, NGOs), Postgraduate and graduate students, and Consultants.
How scientists used transformative new technologies to understand the complexities of weather and the atmosphere, told through the intertwined careers of three key figures.

“The goal of meteorology is to portray everything atmospheric, everywhere, always,” declared John Bellamy and Harry Wexler in 1960, soon after the successful launch of TIROS 1, the first weather satellite. Throughout the twentieth century, meteorological researchers have had global ambitions, incorporating technological advances into their scientific study as they worked to link theory with practice. Wireless telegraphy, radio, aviation, nuclear tracers, rockets, digital computers, and Earth-orbiting satellites opened up entirely new research horizons for meteorologists. In this book, James Fleming charts the emergence of the interdisciplinary field of atmospheric science through the lives and careers of three key figures: Vilhelm Bjerknes (1862–1951), Carl-Gustaf Rossby (1898–1957), and Harry Wexler (1911–1962).

In the early twentieth century, Bjerknes worked to put meteorology on solid observational and theoretical foundations. His younger colleague, the innovative and influential Rossby, built the first graduate program in meteorology (at MIT), trained aviation cadets during World War II, and was a pioneer in numerical weather prediction and atmospheric chemistry. Wexler, one of Rossby's best students, became head of research at the U.S. Weather Bureau, where he developed new technologies from radar and rockets to computers and satellites, conducted research on the Antarctic ice sheet, and established carbon dioxide measurements at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii. He was also the first meteorologist to fly into a hurricane—an experience he chose never to repeat.

Fleming maps both the ambitions of an evolving field and the constraints that checked them—war, bureaucracy, economic downturns, and, most important, the ultimate realization (prompted by the formulation of chaos theory in the 1960s by Edward Lorenz) that perfectly accurate measurements and forecasts would never be possible.

As alarm over global warming spreads, a radical idea is gaining momentum. Forget cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, some scientists argue. Instead, bounce sunlight back into space by pumping reflective nanoparticles into the atmosphere. Launch mirrors into orbit around the Earth. Make clouds thicker and brighter to create a "planetary thermostat."

These ideas might sound like science fiction, but in fact they are part of a very old story. For more than a century, scientists, soldiers, and charlatans have tried to manipulate weather and climate, and like them, today's climate engineers wildly exaggerate what is possible. Scarcely considering the political, military, and ethical implications of managing the world's climate, these individuals hatch schemes with potential consequences that far outweigh anything their predecessors might have faced.

Showing what can happen when fixing the sky becomes a dangerous experiment in pseudoscience, James Rodger Fleming traces the tragicomic history of the rainmakers, rain fakers, weather warriors, and climate engineers who have been both full of ideas and full of themselves. Weaving together stories from elite science, cutting-edge technology, and popular culture, Fleming examines issues of health and navigation in the 1830s, drought in the 1890s, aircraft safety in the 1930s, and world conflict since the 1940s. Killer hurricanes, ozone depletion, and global warming fuel the fantasies of today. Based on archival and primary research, Fleming's original story speaks to anyone who has a stake in sustaining the planet.

At the dawn of the twentieth century, a great confidence suffused America. Isaac Cline was one of the era's new men, a scientist who believed he knew all there was to know about the motion of clouds and the behavior of storms. The idea that a hurricane could damage the city of Galveston, Texas, where he was based, was to him preposterous, "an absurd delusion." It was 1900, a year when America felt bigger and stronger than ever before. Nothing in nature could hobble the gleaming city of Galveston, then a magical place that seemed destined to become the New York of the Gulf.

That August, a strange, prolonged heat wave gripped the nation and killed scores of people in New York and Chicago. Odd things seemed to happen everywhere: A plague of crickets engulfed Waco. The Bering Glacier began to shrink. Rain fell on Galveston with greater intensity than anyone could remember. Far away, in Africa, immense thunderstorms blossomed over the city of Dakar, and great currents of wind converged. A wave of atmospheric turbulence slipped from the coast of western Africa. Most such waves faded quickly. This one did not.

In Cuba, America's overconfidence was made all too obvious by the Weather Bureau's obsession with controlling hurricane forecasts, even though Cuba's indigenous weathermen had pioneered hurricane science. As the bureau's forecasters assured the nation that all was calm in the Caribbean, Cuba's own weathermen fretted about ominous signs in the sky. A curious stillness gripped Antigua. Only a few unlucky sea captains discovered that the storm had achieved an intensity no man alive had ever experienced.

In Galveston, reassured by Cline's belief that no hurricane could seriously damage the city, there was celebration. Children played in the rising water. Hundreds of people gathered at the beach to marvel at the fantastically tall waves and gorgeous pink sky, until the surf began ripping the city's beloved beachfront apart. Within the next few hours Galveston would endure a hurricane that to this day remains the nation's deadliest natural disaster. In Galveston alone at least 6,000 people, possibly as many as 10,000, would lose their lives, a number far greater than the combined death toll of the Johnstown Flood and 1906 San Francisco Earthquake.

And Isaac Cline would experience his own unbearable loss.

Meticulously researched and vividly written, Isaac's Storm is based on Cline's own letters, telegrams, and reports, the testimony of scores of survivors, and our latest understanding of the hows and whys of great storms. Ultimately, however, it is the story of what can happen when human arrogance meets nature's last great uncontrollable force. As such, Isaac's Storm carries a warning for our time.
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